Can You Copyright Blank Forms Used To File Papers With The SEC... And Then Block Selling The Filled Out Forms?
from the seems-like-a-stretch dept
Eric Goldman points us to the news of a lawsuit concerning the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc (ISDA), an industry trade group focused on the financial derivatives market. ISDA supposedly created a set of forms that can be used by parties in a derivatives transaction -- which it then registered a copyright on. Some companies used those forms as part of their filings with the SEC in EDGAR, which is all publicly available information. Another company, Socratek LLC, collected various EDGAR documents, and sold access to them, and since some of that included filled out versions of these forms, ISDA is claiming copyright infringement. The court recently turned down both a request from ISDA for an injunction stopping Socratek as well as a dismissal request from Socratek, so the case will move on.
It's difficult to see how the copyright claim makes sense. First of all, it's a form. While perhaps you can claim creative new works in a form, it seems likely that most forms would not, actually, be covered by copyright. Goldman noted:
I'm skeptical of any copyrights in "order forms." I'm doubly skeptical when the completed form was filed as a public record with the government. I'm triply skeptical given the marginal revenue streams that the plaintiff was seeing anyway.
On top of that, even if these documents are actually covered by copyright (which, again, seems like a stretch), you'd have to think that fair use would cover Socratek's actions. It seems particularly ridiculous to claim that a filled out government filed form is somehow covered by copyright.